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working with existing trees & shrubs

 
Josey Hains
Posts: 92
Location: AB, Canada, Zone 3
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Hi,

I am new here and new to permaculture/forest gardens.

I was wondering how I can add to what we have in our backyard. We have some really old trees and a huge carragana hedge. I was hoping I can add some layers to create a guild. How would I go about this? Around the tree the ground (lawn) is really hard and dry.
Do I just start to sheet mulch around it? What would go in front of the carragana?


Thanks!
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 345
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Hi and welcome

Can you give a little bit of info about your property, such as where you are (or what hardiness zone), what kind/how many existing trees, how big an area your yard is, is it quite shady from the trees, etc?

You can begin to plant guilds around existing trees and shrubs, which is what I've done in my own very small garden, and if your soil is dry and compacted sheet mulching will help improve it (unless you are in a very arid area, I think), and will suppress weeds/grass giving your new plantings a chance to establish. If your existing trees cast a lot of shade you may have more difficulty, though.
 
Josey Hains
Posts: 92
Location: AB, Canada, Zone 3
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Good point. Sorry. Hardiness zone 3 here. Ugh.
The tree I am thinking about is next to the garage so sheltered from north/west which is where the wind comes from. South is blocked a bit by trees but east is wide open. I have to find out what tree that is.
The hedge is facing north east but is sheltered to the north. Not sure if anything would grow there. The hedge is carragana.
Space is not an issue.

Edit: most likely some sort of poplar tree.
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Josey,welcome to permies!

Can you post some pictures?
 
Josey Hains
Posts: 92
Location: AB, Canada, Zone 3
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Howdy Josey,welcome to permies!

Can you post some pictures?


You read my mind.

Here we go...

The hedge:


The tree (will remove the boxes etc):


Pictures are taken from the house.
 
Josey Hains
Posts: 92
Location: AB, Canada, Zone 3
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So, I just went ahead an planted something in front of the tree. We'll see how it goes. Here is a picture:



from right to left: Boyne raspberry, Berry Blue honey berry, Borealis honey berry and a buckthorn.
all of them with some mulch and leek seedlings around.

I also planted a kiwi on a trellis on the south side of the house:



not sure what to plant with the kiwi though. (there is a lavender from last year but I am not sure if that's going to come back)

Early picture of the herb spiral:



Our compost is still frozen so I have to wait until I can move the dirt into the spiral. But I got some more rocks from the field so I am ready when the compost has warmed up.

Any suggestions, comments?
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 345
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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I'm glad you've started planting!

I take it you are planning a food forest; are you planning some well-spaced fruit trees? I would like to say (and maybe you already know this) that eastern facing fruit trees can have their blossoms destroyed by frost much easier than any other aspect. For your particular hardiness zone, I would not like to plant early flowering trees facing east (and I suspect this is going to be most if not all fruit trees that grow in your zone). My parents, in zone 4, have an apricot tree which rarely gets a harvest; it faces southeast. Their neighbor a few blocks down the street has an apricot tree facing northwest; it gets a harvest most years.
 
Josey Hains
Posts: 92
Location: AB, Canada, Zone 3
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Galadriel Freden wrote:I'm glad you've started planting!

I take it you are planning a food forest; are you planning some well-spaced fruit trees? I would like to say (and maybe you already know this) that eastern facing fruit trees can have their blossoms destroyed by frost much easier than any other aspect. For your particular hardiness zone, I would not like to plant early flowering trees facing east (and I suspect this is going to be most if not all fruit trees that grow in your zone). My parents, in zone 4, have an apricot tree which rarely gets a harvest; it faces southeast. Their neighbor a few blocks down the street has an apricot tree facing northwest; it gets a harvest most years.


I didn't know this. However, I also don't really have a NW corner that's a good spot for my fruit bushes. I had the choice between SE or NE and went with the sunnier location. Bushes are very hardy. Honey berries are flowering in -7C (19F). I am not planning any fruit trees right now as we are renting.
Any idea what's good to plant around them?
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 345
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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I believe the fruit bushes should be fine. I don't have much experience at all for your zone--I live and garden in zone 8! But I would think about planting some insectory plants or herbs--most things with flowers will attract insects, and it's even better if you have something that will flower three seasons, from spring bulbs to autumn asters.

Some nutrient accumulators would help improve your soil--comfrey is a permaculture favorite here, but most anything with a deep taproot will be good--I let my dandelion, nettle, and dock spring up, and then chop and drop them periodically; and maybe some nitrogen-fixing plants or cover crops such as clover--which also doubles as an insectory plant. I think caragana is nitrogen-fixing, so depending on how close it is to your other plantings, you may not need many (or any) other N-fixers. The hedge clippings could double as mulch too, for soil improvement: something I do with pretty much all my prunings unless I'm pruning with a handsaw.

Have you read gaia's garden by Toby Hemenway? I have found this book very helpful for putting together my own (new) food forest. His books explains the roles of the plants (and other living things) much more elegantly than I can!
 
Josey Hains
Posts: 92
Location: AB, Canada, Zone 3
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Zone 8! Lucky you!

I read Gaia's Garden. That was an eye opener!
I am still waiting for my comfrey seeds. I also might get some roots from a friend. I also ordered sweet cicely. Do you know if I need to start these indoors? I am not quite sure as I haven't even heard of them before.

I got clover seeds but I was thinking to plant those last. Mostly to fill in around the edge towards the lawn.
 
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